By Opio Sokoni
A man asked his pastor what should he do about a judge that ruled against him. The preacher told the man that there is a higher judge through the appeal process. The pastor paused and left the man with a bigger message. He said, “But God has the final say.” That was the feeling in the overflow room across from the packed courtroom Thursday morning at the Federal Courthouse. Former Congresswoman Corrine Brown was in court for her sentence hearing. Her supporters showed up in force.
Corrine’s attorney James Smith took the podium to make rejections to the sentencing documents prepared by the prosecutors. Those objections are meant to place Corrine’s sentence lower on the set of tiers that the judge can use to make his decision. Since there are no mandatory minimums, the judge has a wide range of options to sentence Corrine and the others involved in this case.
The prosecutor, Tysen Duva, took the podium and asked the judge to give Corrine Brown time in prison. He asked that she be given the most time, followed by Ronnie Simmons with Carley Wiley receiving the less amount of time. Wiley is the creator of the charity at the center of the case. She admitted, along with Simmons, to taking huge sums of money. The prosecutor stated that it was not clear weather Corrine knew that she was receiving funds directly from the charity when given to her by Simmons. Simmons and Wiley were used as witnesses for the prosecutor’s case against Corrine Brown.
The prosecutor spent time talking about Corrine’s words, during the trial, against the criminal justice system. The prosecutor seemed to possess a personal tone as he read off media quotes where Brown discussed him and the problems within the system. The prosecutor said that the system is fair to all and denied that there was racism that can be at work in any way in Corrine’s case. Duva even quoted The Florida Star’s series which laid out primary data detailing the number of black elected officials that are investigated and prosecuted. Maybe unbeknownst to the prosecutor, during the end of his talk, he gave the judge a list of sentences given to elected officials that were convicted of cases similar to Corrine’s. Most of those names were of black elected officials.
Fifteen people were listed to speak as character witnesses for Corrine Brown.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee made her statement via telephone. She spoke about what many of the next character witnesses would talk about – the Congresswoman Brown’s work to help military veterans. Others would cry as they talked about her being major blessings in their lives. One such college student said she keeps a laptop that she received due to Corrine’s effort to reward children who read books.
Marissa Alexander talked about the health issues she went through while going through what Corrine is going through in court now. She said Corrine came in and spoke for her and now she is doing the favor back because during her dark hour, Corrine’s words made her young daughter cry joyful tears. A colonel said that his organization that keep vets off the streets was saved by Corrine Brown. Her actions, he said, has saved many lives. Another witness said that it was Corrine’s efforts that has caused many people to own and stay in their homes. He connected this to the taxes that are now realized as a result. He said that her actions have helped Florida and the United States to the tune of billions of dollars. All speakers for Brown asked that she receives no jail time. Many said that she is not a threat but an asset that should be in the community doing work to help people.
Urban League President Dr. Richard Danford told the judge that Corrine Brown can do community service at his organization. There were several pastors that came out to support Corrine, the incredible words they used became a reminder of the wise pastor who said, “God has the final say.”